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X Prize and John Carmack

CmdrTaco posted more than 10 years ago | from the lost-in-space dept.

Space 340

Anonymous Coward writes "ABC News is running a story ostensibly about the X Prize but in reality they only talk about John Carmack and his teams efforts to win the prize (or at least compete). Quote: 'Some people have commented that I am trying very hard to make aerospace like software, and that's the truth," he says. "If we looked at what we do in software, if we could only compile and test our program once a year, we'd never get anything done. But that's the mode of aerospace.' "

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340 comments

Uhhh? (0)

tevenson (625386) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816548)

He should be adding better outdoor support to the DOOM ]|[ engine, not doing this silly rocket business...

Re:Uhhh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6816602)

He's busy trying to add permanent in-ground support to the aerospace business.

Re:Uhhh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6816608)

Yeah, it's not like he should have a personal life outside software development, when he's devoted so much time to making games for us to waste precious work time with. What an asshole!

Re:Uhhh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6816679)

Do you actually know *anything* about John Carmack?

He really doesn't HAVE a personal life, and he likes it just fine.

He's more geek than the geekiest /. reader, and he's proud of it.

Also, he's a good graphics programmer but a really lousy game designer.

Software Design != Rocket Design OR does it? (2, Interesting)

Blaine Hilton (626259) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816556)

John Carmack may be great at software programming, but does that really apply to spacecraft design? Software is known to be buggy, but when you are being hurtled towards space faster then a speeding bullet you really don't have the luxury of being able to use a debugger. However, it is somewhat reassuring to know that he makes good, solid games, and not the type of software that comes out of Redmond. I do believe a lot of the ideas behind his methodology is sound. If rapid test driven development works well for software design, who's to say that it can not be used for space flight.

I just hope that they value a quality assurance process more then the typical software engineer. In a game like this you would not be able to release version 2.0.

--
Go calculate something [webcalc.net]

parent is -1, Troll (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6816673)

how the heck can the moderators miss that

Then != Than (2, Informative)

blunte (183182) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816736)

Hate to be picky, but damn, please learn this.

Then [reference.com] != Than [reference.com]

And yeah, parent post is a troll.

Re:Then != Than (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6816879)

And yeah, parent post is a troll.

Please explain. Some crack-smoking moderators and I are confused.

Re:Software Design != Rocket Design OR does it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6816780)

My god, one simple mistake. Shutup.

Re:Software Design != Rocket Design OR does it? (3, Insightful)

efuseekay (138418) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816807)


If you can afford to test your hardware as often as you can, do it. A test is worth a million analysis plots.

Making mistakes in a test environment is the best way to learn about your design and your own limitations.

Re:Software Design != Rocket Design OR does it? (1)

Channard (693317) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816854)

I just hope that they value a quality assurance process more then the typical software engineer. In a game like this you would not be able to release version 2.0.

I think they might have difficulty finding beta testers, though.

Re:Software Design != Rocket Design OR does it? (4, Insightful)

Idarubicin (579475) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816878)

John Carmack may be great at software programming, but does that really apply to spacecraft design? Software is known to be buggy, but when you are being hurtled towards space faster then a speeding bullet you really don't have the luxury of being able to use a debugger.

For spaceflight, we need people who think like the old school programmers. The ones that actually planned their programs before they wrote them. When it took twenty-four hours (or more) between when you submitted your card deck and when you got your output (or a core dump) you learned to be damned careful with your code. The modern attitude of "keep tweaking it until it compiles; we'll fix the bugs in 2.0" won't wash in spaceflight.

Re:Software Design != Rocket Design OR does it? (1, Funny)

shaitand (626655) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816901)

"I just hope that they value a quality assurance process more then the typical software engineer. In a game like this you would not be able to release version 2.0."

utter nonsense, there are billions of people on earth, how many of them do you really think will fit in 1.0? If it crashes there's plenty of room for people to go on 2.0.

what's an X-Prize? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6816558)

"The competition to build and fly a rocket ship into space and back is heating up as the Jan. 1, 2005, deadline approaches for the X Prize."

Recompiling is easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6816561)

Rebuilding large complicated expensive machines is not.

hm (4, Funny)

EMH_Mark3 (305983) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816562)

Aerospace like software, eh?
"Crap, the rocket is not ready and the deadline for launch is tomorrow!"
"Bah, launch it anyways and we'll release a patch later!"

Re:hm (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6816598)

Aerospace like software, eh? "Crap, the rocket is not ready and the deadline for launch is tomorrow!" "Bah, launch it anyways and we'll release a patch later!"
That's probably a good characterization of NASA -- except maybe the patch part.

Re:hm (4, Interesting)

G-funk (22712) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816727)

That's the first thing that sprang to my mind when I read that as well! :)

But all jokes aside, this is what's going to push manking further. People like John Carmack who are smart, driven, and can afford to play in aerospace. Maybe Armadillo won't be the company that makes space travel cheap or even possible for the average successful joe shmoe, but somebody like him will. Given the tantrums thrown by nasa when somebody wants to go up to space who's not an "astronaut" even on another country's rockets, it's sure as hell not going to come from them, even in competition with the [russians|chinese|indians].

Re:hm (4, Funny)

WTFmonkey (652603) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816826)

this is what's going to push manking further
I am the man-king! Bow down before me! All will worship and grovel!

Sorry, got my Napoleon complex on there for a minute.

Re:hm (3, Insightful)

shotgunefx (239460) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816753)

I see alot of people pointing out buggy software releases but I don't think it's applicable.

Making software to run on a platform that can have almost unfathomable perumutations is not the same as writing software for one set of components.

already thought of (3, Funny)

morcheeba (260908) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816782)

We were building a satellite with upload-code capability, and were facing a deadline, so we ran the numbers.

We had a very slow uplink, maybe 300 baud (packet overhead and protocol turn-around time included). And we had a lot of code. The satellite was visible only for maybe 8 minutes out of every 90 minute orbit, so unless we had ground stations positioned all around the world and synchronized, we were effectively limited to about 30 baud long-term average. And we had a lot of code.

What's worse is we figured that the radiation environment would reset the satellite every so often... this was fine in normal operation, but would kill an upload. It would be almost statistically impossible to upload the entire code without an upset.

So, we all got back to work.

Eventually, we got good code and launched the satellite. Unfortuantly, the rocket flew off-course and was blown up by the range safety officer -- the satellite ended up in the water. Our company also made bouys (functionally, they are similar concept satellites), so the debate was always whether we should load the regular code or the bouy code into the satellites. We didn't try to figure out the code-uplink case for "underwater".

Of course they're the same (1)

sjbe (173966) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816838)

Aerospace like software, eh?
"Crap, the rocket is not ready and the deadline for launch is tomorrow!"
"Bah, launch it anyways and we'll release a patch later!"


Of course they are the same. Just ask the Challenger crew...

Wow, that's a morbid joke. Sorry.

Gee...Sounds like the Columbia.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6816929)

No comment.

Site slowing - here's the artical text. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6816568)

From Doom to Zoom
Video Game Creator Chases After Space Race Prize

By Amy Plemons, Tech Live

Aug. 28-- Apparently, NASA's got it all wrong. Who says you need to spend billions of dollars to put people into space?

The competition to build and fly a rocket ship into space and back is heating up as the Jan. 1, 2005, deadline approaches for the X Prize. Sure, it may seem like a long way off, but in the world of rocket science 16 months is a blip in time. More than 20 teams from around the world are vying for the $10 million prize.

Among them is Armadillo Aerospace, a research and development team out to prove you don't have to have big cocks for a big launch.

The man at Armadillo's helm is no rocket scientist. He's a computer programmer. John Carmack, co-founder and owner of id Software, started Armadillo Aerospace more than two years ago. Once a side project, it's grown into a big cock of his life, Carmack says.

"It was exciting to move to a new field I didn't know anything about," Carmack says. "I am drawn to the engineering. I enjoy solving problems and finding novel solutions to things, and I've been at the top of my field in software for so long. The challenges, while they evolve, they are not so novel anymore."

Thus, Carmack's interest in building rocket ships began. His Ferraris went into the garage, and out came an SUV so he can cart around cocket parts. He's paying for everything out of his own pocket -- made possible by id Software's success with hugely popular video games such as Doom, Return to Castle Wolfenstein and Quake.

"Effectively, I stopped buying Ferraris and turbo-charging them and started building rocket ships," Carmack says.

Booster Buildup

Seven team members make up Armadillo Aerospace, not including the group's mascot, Widget, an armadillo. They're all volunteers dedicated to winning the X Prize. They gather twice a week at a Dallas warehouse to work toward their goal.

To win the X Prize, they need to build a rocket ship that can carry three people 62.5 miles above the Earth and then return them safely. They intend to do this by testing on a small scale and then retesting again and again. The team is spending between $1 million and $2 million to build its craft.

"By working on a small scale, it's not uncommon to do a dozen or so small tests [each weekend], changing things on the fly," team member Neil Milburn says. "We achieve a lot in a day or two days that other programs would take weeks, months, or even years to accomplish."

One of the team's biggest accomplishments so far is a successful manned landing in the warehouse parking lot. Russ Blink "piloted" the first flight of the group's landing vehicle in September 2002.

The flight came after months of fine-tuning the vehicle, which consists of a chair mounted to a metal frame with rockets strapped to the sides.

"I was a little nervous after such a long time of working on it," Blink says. "Now all of a sudden I was on it. I could feel it shake. It was like being on a real rocket."

An ambulance was standing by in case of an emergency, but it wasn't needed. The flight went off without a hitch. The crew hopes to launch the real deal at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

Developing Rockets Like Video Games

As head of id Software, Carmack brings a unique perspective to the science of rocketry. Computer software is a cornerstone of the group's efforts, and Carmack has developed all the software.

"The rocket plan is usually to build a really, really big engine, fly it high, then at some point people have some hazy idea of putting a control system on it," Carmack says. "We kind of started on the exact opposite side. We built really tiny engines, like 50-pound thrust engines, for our early vehicles, but we built a really good computer system for it. That allowed us to do lots and lots of testing behind our building."

Testing is key for Carmack, who doesn't want to work for months only to find out a rocket doesn't work. He believes the more testing done, the faster the crew can work out any kinks.

"Some people have commented that I am trying very hard to make aerospace like software, and that's the truth," he says. "If we looked at what we do in software, if we could only compile and test our program once a year, we'd never get anything done. But that's the mode of aerospace."

It might be the mode of aerospace, but it's certainly not the mode for Armadillo Aerospace. The team is ahead in its development of an X Prize-class vehicle.

So what happens once the contest is over? The team says that, win or lose, it has no intention of stopping there. For them, space is the limit.

Copyright 2003 TechTV, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Yet another troll - MOD THE PARENT DOWN (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6816633)

We built really tiny engines, tiny like Michael's cock, for our early vehicles

A small, subtle troll here.

Nevertheless, mod him down.

This guy is lying (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6816731)

What the fuck are you talking about?

There is no such thing in that post! MODERATORS DO YOUR JOB AND READ THE POST YOU ARE ABOUT TO MODERATE.

Troll on Troll Re:Yet another troll (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6816747)

Interesting Troll on Troll here, the parent is a troll, but not for this reason...

Re:Site slowing - here's the artical text. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6816691)

out to prove you don't have to have big
cocks for a big launch
Why are you modding this troll up?

Mod the parent poster of a clown down (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6816755)

You just can't give it up, can you?

Never trust AC reposts! (2, Informative)

RobertB-DC (622190) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816758)

Moderators, please watch for these signs:

* Claims that a server like abcnews.com, cnn.com, microsoft.com, etc is "slowing down"

* Anonymous Coward posts with no reference to the poster's true identity

* Lines like so he can cart around cocket parts

Re:Never trust AC reposts! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6816855)

Awwww... someone got moderated up and you don't like it.

Does it make you feel like a man when you advise the moderators to enforce groupthink by modding down "a troll"? I bet it does.

Most imporant of all, you little editor appeasing fuck-o, how does it feel to be a part of the slashdot/bot groupthink?

You really think that /. is about "serious discussion and news for nerds"? Well, wakey-wakey my sweetie-pie with a virgin anus. Just wait until the modbombing editors mod you down for not toeing the party-line and you'll join the trolls too.

We are what makes /. worth reading. Try reading at -1 sometime.

Re:Never trust AC reposts! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6816887)

We are what makes /. worth reading. Try reading at -1 sometime.

What? You mean by reducing the average intelligence level so everyone else looks smart by comparison?

Re:Site slowing - here's the artical text. (0)

4of12 (97621) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816771)


big what for a big launch?

Paragraph 3.

The whole Armadillo Aerospace team must be really proud to be showcased thusly on /.

Interesting Troll on Troll phenomenon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6816845)

There is an interesting sociological troll phenomenon, where a copy and paste troll will introduce a subtle change into the artical text, usually giving it sexual connotactions,

The moderators mod it up without reading it, and then a Troll on Troller, will report it as being a troll, citing a DIFFERENT subtle change in the text, which is not present in the original troll.

Interesting.

Re:Interesting Troll on Troll phenomenon (0)

WTFmonkey (652603) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816905)

What's really funny is, it's still going up. It's at +4 right now. I mean, come on guys, third and fourth paragraphs (it's not even that far into the article!). I'm logged in. That means you have to trst me, right?

Re:Site slowing - here's the artical text. (0)

cK-Gunslinger (443452) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816888)

LOL! That was good, I haven't seen one of these trolls in a while. I was wondering for a moment what kind of article would make gratuitous use of the work "cock." You even got some mod points! Nice job.

I can empathize. (5, Funny)

grub (11606) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816571)


"Effectively, I stopped buying Ferraris and turbo-charging them and started building rocket ships," Carmack says.

Yeah, I hate it when I have to put off buying Ferraris.

Re:I can empathize. (1)

BagOBones (574735) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816658)

"To win the X Prize, they need to build a rocket ship that can carry three people 62.5 miles above the Earth and then return them safely."

Re:I can empathize. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6816757)

Plenty of 2+2 Ferraris out there.

But can you imagine what the Ferraris Dealers felt (1)

Lead Butthead (321013) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816774)

"One of our regulars decided rocket science is more important than latest model of ..."

NASA-style (1)

The Old Burke (679901) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816577)

"If we looked at what we do in software, if we could only compile and test our program once a year, we'd never get anything done. But that's the mode of aerospace.' "
So I guess he is one of those that think that NASA should send up more manned Space Shutlle's to test if they are reliable?
What works great for games might be disatrous in space.

Re:NASA-style (1)

Channard (693317) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816765)

So I guess he is one of those that think that NASA should send up more manned Space Shutlle's to test if they are reliable? Yep. I hear John Romero's at a loose end.

On the other hand ... (2, Funny)

Rajesh Raman (115274) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816579)

Programmer: Ooops, wrong condition on the 'if' statement. I'll just reboot the rocket's computer and test again!
Flight director (emerging from flaming debris): Errr ... what rocket?

If his rocket is like Doom (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6816580)

Then all versions up until 1.9 will crash!

Carmack is the king of the kikes. Fuck him.

Crashes (3, Funny)

pipingguy (566974) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816582)


Carmack says: Some people have commented that I am trying very hard to make aerospace like software, and that's the truth

Unfortunate analogy?

Cost (5, Interesting)

Brahmastra (685988) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816586)

The team is spending between $1 million and $2 million to build its craft.
How on earth do they intend to build a spacecraft carrying people for $1-2 million? Even an extremely used Learjet costs a few million! Am I missing something?

Re:Cost (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6816635)

I doubt that X-price jet will have more than a couple of seats. Learjet can carry a lot more people.

Re:Cost (3, Interesting)

couch_potato (623264) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816642)

Yes. Markup. Do you really think Bombardier spends $15 million building a new Learjet?

Nevertheless, I wonder who would be willing to strap themselves into a space vehicle that cost 'only' $1 million to develop.

Re:Cost (4, Insightful)

Brahmastra (685988) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816666)

While mass-producing a learjet probably doesn't cost much at all, building the first prototype probably cost many 10s of millions in development costs. If this team is building a prototype for $1-2 million and that includes all material, development and testing costs, I'm definitely not buying a house in its flight-path.

Re:Cost (4, Insightful)

jandrese (485) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816671)

Yeah, there's a world of difference between buying a personal jet from a private company that must be flightworthy for dozens or hundreds of flights a year and comply with acres of FAA regulations before they even get off the ground. Not to mention the high markup on those jets.

These rockets are being built with more or less volunteer time and by people who are willing to scrounge for parts and look long and hard for bargains. I think you'd find that the raw materials that go into a Learjet aren't all that expensive (steel by the pound, etc...), but the labor costs, health plans, salespeople comissions, buildings, paperclips, etc... add considerably to the cost of the final product.

Re:Cost (1)

goldspider (445116) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816910)

"I think you'd find that the raw materials that go into a Learjet aren't all that expensive (steel by the pound, etc...)"

Not to nitpick or anything, but the majority of aircraft frames are made of a LiAl (Lithium-Aluminim) alloy, which is a great deal more expensive to produce than steel.

What are Carmack & Co. constructing the frame of their rocket out of?

Re:Cost (3, Insightful)

The Lynxpro (657990) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816713)

The last time I checked, bottled water costs a whole lot more than water from the tap. And the markup is far more excessive than the cost of the plastic bottle. Brand name T-shirts may cost pennies to produce in a third-world country, but still will cost you $20 to purchase at the mall. Our world is full of inconsistencies.

Re:Cost (1)

Eberlin (570874) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816756)

Easy -- they'll buy materials from Home Depot instead of wherever the hell they go for "NASA-grade" duct tape.

Either that or ask some folks to chip in for gas.

FAA (1)

blunte (183182) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816813)

I dunno what the real costs are in making spacecraft, but I doubt they have to deal with the FAA [faa.gov] , their costs should be reasonable.

A significant cost of aircraft (non-experimental) is having to deal with the FAA and all its requirements.

Re:Cost (4, Insightful)

kfg (145172) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816846)

If you know how, and count your time as "valueless," you can build a hang glider for. . . nothing.

You can build a sports car that rivals a Corvette and get it road certified for only a few grand, even though a new Corvette costs a damned sight more than that.

Most of the expense of doing things, even making video games, comes from doing things in a standard way inside of a standardize buearacratic system.

Throw out the red tape, open your mind to alternative ways of accomplishing the same goals, work for the joy of it and eliminate the market as motivator and you might surprised at how much you can accomplish with relatively little cash.

Watch a few episodes of Rough Science.

KFG

THE RASMUS (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6816590)

Arina, Kiev

The Rasmus! Ukraine loves you! Are you love us!? "In the shadows" is the best! Whoooohoooo!

Dual use... (2, Interesting)

Gefiltefish11 (611646) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816592)


Why not develop and test their spaceship mostly via computer simluation. That's Carmack's strong suit anyway. Besides, I'd love to get my hands on that sort of simulator. Though I'd probably need a beowulf cluster...

retrorocket.o not found, launch anyway? (1)

Hairy_Potter (219096) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816593)

Jeepers, I see 10 builds a day fail here for missing components, is that really the paradigm Carmack wants to port to spaceflight?

Heh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6816595)

"If we looked at what we do in software, if we could only compile and test our program once a year, we'd never get anything done. But that's the mode of aerospace.'" And "Duke Nukem Forever," apparently.

carmack dead? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6816596)

didn't he die in the brazilian rocket explosion. i definitely remember someone saying that during the discussion of that particular article here on slashdot.

Re:carmack dead? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6816924)

No, no, no. That was BSD that died.

That quote (5, Insightful)

jandrese (485) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816605)

The quote about making rockets the same way we make software reminds me of another quote:
"If we built houses the way we build software, the first woodpecker to come along would destroy civilization."

- U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary John J. Hamre, in testimony before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, June, 1998 (Attr Gerald Weinberg)
Unfortunatly, unlike software, you can't just reboot rockets that crash.

Re:That quote (1)

blunte (183182) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816892)

Modern (common) homebuilding is nothing to be proud of.

We should be building Insulated Concrete Form [ucf.edu] homes. Instead we're still building them out of toothpicks. ICF homes are very much more energy efficient, and cost only slightly more to make. They also greatly reduce fire risk and wind damage risk.

So offtopic as it is, this quote is invalid.

OB stuff.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6816616)

soviets: In soviet russia, rockets launch you.

simpsons:
v1:
- ACK!! Protect the queen!
- Which one's the queen?
- I'm the queen!
- No you're not!

v2:
In Rod we trust.

SCO:
Heh...but does Darl want the full licence price for that once / year compile time usage?

HAH! Take that, trolls! Beat ya to it!

Making aerospace like software... (5, Funny)

fmaxwell (249001) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816621)

Some people have commented that I am trying very hard to make aerospace like software, and that's the truth

Gives a whole new meaning to "blue screen of death", doesn't it?

Just like software... (1, Funny)

ravind (701403) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816623)

"Some people have commented that I am trying very hard to make aerospace like software"

See, it crashes just like my software. We call it the 'blue sky of death' :D

You need a challenge? (0, Offtopic)

TheNecromancer (179644) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816630)

The challenges, while they evolve, they are not so novel anymore.

How about trying to plug all of Microsoft's security holes?

Re:You need a challenge? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6816817)

That's not really a challenge. People from the East Coast seemed to have the solution a week or two ago. For those who aren't as compulsive, you can just pull the plug on your machine.

TechTV (2, Informative)

Cutriss (262920) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816638)

It should be noted that they're only carrying show notes, and that the interview with John Carmack was actually carried out by TechTV's Tech Live, and was run last night at 8 PM EST, and again twice this morning.

It will air again tonight at 6 PM EST.

Re:TechTV (1)

Cutriss (262920) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816678)

Oh...and it should also be noted that since ABC News is carrying a copy of the story and is currently getting hammered by Slashdot, the original story [techtv.com] is up on the TechTV website.

A "mirror", if you will.

Rockets like Quake (3, Funny)

luckyguesser (699385) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816640)

"We have liftoff!" == "Excellent!"
"Our trajectory is acceptable for re-entry"=="Accuracy!"
"Our rocket landed, and it's data storage is still intact"=="Perfect!"

* luckyguesser almost dodged John_Cormack's rocket.

"Aerospace" (2, Funny)

qat (637648) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816647)

When he says Aerospace Software, he really means adding net jetpacks to Doom and allowing them to be used outside earth's atmosphere... you guys are interpreting this all wrong!

It's not an entirely stupid process (5, Interesting)

heironymouscoward (683461) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816651)

Indeed, conventional rocket design is pretty brute-force. Big engine, hunking mechanical control systems with minimal intelligence.

Given the capabilities of modern IT, it makes much more sense to use software as the core of the system, in the same was as software is the core of a device like the Segway, or the stair-climbing robot, or the telescopes that consist of a thousand small mirrors, not one large one.

Rocket science has not changed significantly since 1950, and needs a rethink. I believe this project is a solid approach that has good chances of succeeding, and if so, will redefine the way we conceive of this kind of engineering project in the future.

Re:It's not an entirely stupid process (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6816730)

So, why do you think everyone's making the Microsoft "that's a real blue screen of death" jokes? Because it's ok to have lots of revision cycles on a product that doesn't serve a life-or-death function: if there's a bug, there's no harm done and we can fix it in the next revision. With rocket hardware, if there's a bug, you've got an explosion on launch and maybe flight crew and ground crew deaths.

Of course, who's to say that isn't the approach being used at NASA? How many patches were made to the Apollo project, or to the Shuttle?

Software and Rocket Science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6816657)

Rapid Aerospace Design...would that be a spacecraft built in VB? Yikes!

Can't exactly release early and release often when it comes to stuff like that unless you've got money to literally burn.

It's rocket science not computer science. (1)

Mrs. Grundy (680212) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816659)

"If we looked at what we do in software, if we could only compile and test our program once a year, we'd never get anything done. But that's the mode of aerospace.'" There is a huge difference, though. If you screw up the syntax and your program doesn't compile you fix it recompile and go on with your work. What is the rocket ship equivalent to a syntactical error? A bad o-ring? Mistakes cost more...much more. And although computer simulation is good, the real test, the equivalent of compiling and running, comes when you test it against physics. You can't do that a few times a day.

Can you licence Ship Design? (5, Funny)

Ducati_749S (646019) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816670)

If he wins, I wonder if the ships' lifecycle will resemble those of his games?
I can see it allready:
1) Carmack devises a ship that excells in performance, but requires very costly componenets in order to deliver on its full functionality.
2) After a years' worth of excellent operational records, other countries license the engine design and build their own ships off of it
3) 2 years after launch a thriving Spaceship MOD community is launching new ships into space every couple of months....

In Texas We Call That A Clue (4, Insightful)

blunte (183182) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816685)

ABC News is running a story ostensibly about the X Prize but in reality they only talk about John Carmack
Yeah, the title of the article sort of hints that it's focused on Carmack... From Doom to Zoom Video - Game Creator Chases After Space Race Prize

Duh.

Re:In Texas We Call That A Clue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6816897)

I was wondering about the AC's inane commentary. I don't think s/he actually read the article - it is ostensibly and in fact completely about John Carmack's attempt to win the X Prize. It doesn't pretend to be *anything* else. But, hey, can't s/he rain on John's parade?!

This post brought to you by ICBLF

A little more important than a contest (1)

wmaker (701707) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816698)

It seems to me that maybe we should leave the research and development to NASA on things as important as this. Maybe it's just me, but turning rocket development into a contest seems kind of crazy to me. Don't get me wrong, competition is good, it advances technology faster. But, in this case i think it's wrong.

Re:A little more important than a contest (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6816835)

We should definitely not leave r&d to NASA. While they did admirably during the Apollo days, they then proceeded to develop a space plane (oxymoron) against the advice of many of their own people who told them it would be terribly dangerous and unworkable.

Why did they do this? Mainly to continue procuring fata$$ budget$ from comgre$$, but also because the astronauts wanted to fly a ship instead of riding a ballistically stable capsule.

For a clear understanding of why one is superior to the other one need only compare the results when one thing went wrong with two shuttles versus what happened when many things went wrong with Apollo 13 as well as the recent return of american astronauts aboard a Russian capsule.

Letting government carry the weight of r&d guarantees porky boondoggles such as the shuttle.
(/rant)

Re:A little more important than a contest (3, Interesting)

mdielmann (514750) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816882)

We got where we are in the aircraft industry by using contests and prizes. It motivates people who aren't established in the industry (or to join an unestablished industry) to try out their ideas, and accept the risks for the chance of a huge reward (and hopefully not 'the great reward'). Think of it as a way of short-circuiting the old-boys network.

Also, you can be sure people are going to die because of this. People died trying to get to Asia, cross the Atlantic, get to the north pole, discover redioactivity, (nearly died) to discover electricity, and create trains, automobiles and airplanes. Why do you think this advance will cost less than most of the others? That's the nature of the game. Now as far as general destruction, that's easy, too. Launch over deserted land or over water, and you'll minimize the risk to uninvolved individuals.

Ultimately, advancement requires risk. Large, established organizations are adverse to risk, leaving two options: slowed (or stalled) innovation, or introduction of players willing to take risks. I personally would like to see something more advanced than the space shuttle, and at the rate NASA is going, I'll be waiting another decade or three for them to do that.

Re:A little more important than a contest (1)

wmaker (701707) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816916)

Hmm, that's funny because I think that I already said that. I said, competition is good because it helps make advances in technology... But i think it is wrong in this case, people could go to launch themselves into space and get killed.

One size does not fit all. (1)

antis0c (133550) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816707)

'Some people have commented that I am trying very hard to make aerospace like software, and that's the truth," he says. "If we looked at what we do in software, if we could only compile and test our program once a year, we'd never get anything done. But that's the mode of aerospace.' "

Yes but if your test program fails, all you've lost is small amount of time associated with compiling and executing the program.

If the test of your rocket on the other hand fails, you could lose more than just time but materials, money, and in worst case lives.

We're not talking about 1's and 0's, we're talking about real physical matter that costs money to obtain, form, construct, and build. If you recklessly test it, you'll end up worse than no where.

WSMR & John's approach (4, Interesting)

anzha (138288) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816721)

The crew hopes to launch the real deal at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

This, I have known for a while: I have a buddy that works in WSMR's flight safety group. I'm looking forward to it. I'm hoping that I'll get to watch. *crossed fingers*

However, John's attitude of build a little, test a little isn't just a software attitude. It's the old Xplanes or NACA (pre NASA) attitude towards aeronautics.

For those of you that still use usenet, go check out the sci.space.* heirarchy. You'll find that John's a contributor there, but he's empathetically not the first to espouse such views. However, I know of none that have compared it to software development like he did in this interview.

Aerospace like software? (4, Funny)

FurryFeet (562847) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816728)

Somehow, "my software crashed" lacks that ominous feel that "my software crashed" has...

Morons and XPrize. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6816733)

Skcus Xunil!

Its about the testing methodology (4, Informative)

mattgreen (701203) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816762)

Read the article for once people instead of knee-jerk reacting to an analogy.

Carmack merely wants to improve the method by which rockets are constructed. He says he starts small and builds his way up, rather than constructing the rocket and control system and then working for six months to work out the problems.

This is a well-known software development technique, and I don't see why it wouldn't be generalizable to other fields. If anything it should inspire more confidence in the creator at least.

Commando-style projects (1)

zptdooda (28851) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816781)

"...as the Jan. 1, 2005, deadline approaches for the X Prize. Sure, it may seem like a long way off, but in the world of rocket science 16 months is a blip in time.

I've read that the longer a project is extimated to take, the greater the likelihood of it running overtime, and the greater the degree of this overrun. Plotting expected versus actual project length looked logarithmic. I think it was in Scientific American a few years ago but I can't find the reference. Anyone? I think they mentioned Denver Airport software as an example of an overrun project. It was built but couldn't be put into operation for a while until they finished the baggage handling programs.

That's why I prefer short, commando style projects. Do something simple, useful, and fast, and get it done on time! Maybe even early.

Now this "X Prize" looks anything but simple, but it sounds like Armadillo Aerospace hit the ground running, getting small results out, rather than not producing larger, more complex results for a long time.

Ferrari's (1)

jav1231 (539129) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816821)

I'm so glad he's not buying anymore Ferrari's. Now I can finally get a salesman to talk to me! yeah right...(sigh) JAV

Negative dorks (0, Interesting)

kraemer (637938) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816824)

I cant believe how negative you dorks are being about all this... Is it really so bad that he's spending all his money to boost the aerospace industry? What are Ben and Jen doing with all their money to help mankind? -Dont forget he is not patenting this stuff either!!!!

not really comparable to NASA (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6816833)

What most of these articles tend to obscure is that NASA flights and X-Prize flights are really doing different things. NASA is directed almost entirely at orbital spaceflight and beyond. The X-Prize is directed at sub-orbital flight. The physics of orbital spaceflight effectively require the use of large, multi-stage rockets with very high speeds. Sub-orbital flight does not. The X-Prize appears to be aimed at opening up the sub-orbital domain, which has been largely neglected so far.

but the aerospace guys are getting it right..? (1)

Resistance is futile (246019) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816836)

Hate to say it but I have infinitely more respect for the aerospace people. Yes, their stuff occasionally ends up like expensive fireworks but they do get a lot of things right.

I often wonder if it weren't better to chuck out the compiler and sit down and THINK about how this piece of code should work. Seriously think about whether the stuff is right, then when I am convinced bet with my colleagues that I did get it right. Then compile, then test. Being ready to take the well-deserved ridicule if it did not compile and run at first; loose the bet.

Mindless writing, compiling, testing, debugging is incredibly wasteful. What if I spent four times as much time on getting it the first time? Wouldn't that give me an overall gain in time&money?

Just a provocation, anyway
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